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Friday, August 7, 2015

This Week in Satellite News! (Jul 31 – Aug 07 2015)

 

Proton Scheduled To Launch Inmarsat Satellite by Early September

PARIS — Russia’s Proton rocket is scheduled to return to commercial service in late August or early September following the conclusion of a government investigation into a May failure that destroyed a large Mexican telecommunications satellite and shook once again the market’s confidence in the rocket.

The customer on the next flight will be mobile satellite services provider Inmarsat of London, whose third and final Global Xpress Ka-band mobile broadband satellite has been awaiting a launch for months. The delay forced Inmarsat to delay the service’s full commercial start as many customers were awaiting an unbroken global service area – which requires three satellites – before committing to it.

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Perseids: Bright Meteor Shower in August

The 2015 Perseid meteor shower runs from July 13 to Aug. 26, with the peak observing time predicted for the overnight hours of Aug. 12 and Aug. 13. According to scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, this year's Perseids display could spawn up to 100 meteors per hour under the most optimum observing conditions (clear dark skies well away from any intereference from city lights).

The Perseids meteor shower happens every August. The Earth plows into debris left behind from Comet Swift-Tuttle, which last passed close to Earth in 1992.

While the comet poses no threat to the planet for the foreseeable future, it is a very large object. Its nucleus of 6 miles (9.7 kilometers) in diameter is about the same size as the one that crashed into Earth about 66 million years ago and killed the dinosaurs.

Earth And Space: Snowy Range Perseid Meteor Shower

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NASA to Pay Russia Another $490 Million to Fly Astronauts on Soyuz Spacecraft

WASHINGTON — NASA formally notified Congress Aug. 5 that it is issuing a $490 million extension of an existing contract to purchase Soyuz seats from the Russian space agency, saying that it was forced to do so because of cuts in the agency's commercial crew program.

"I am writing to inform you that NASA, once again, has modified its current contract with the Russian government to meet America's requirements for crew transportation services," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden wrote in the letter to the House and Senate committees that oversee NASA. "Under this contract modification, the cost of these services to the U.S. taxpayers will be approximately $490 million."

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US Senate Passes Commercial Space Bill

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate approved a bill Aug. 4 that extends two key provisions of commercial launch law as well as authorizes operations of the International Space Station beyond 2020, but the bill will have to be reconciled with a House bill that is more generous to industry.

The Senate passed S. 1297, the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, by unanimous consent, a procedure for the expedited passage of noncontroversial bills. The Senate Commerce Committee approved the bill without debate May 20.

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Canada Finds its Way To Providing GPS 3 Search and Rescue Repeaters

VICTORIA, British Columbia — After delays because of concerns over funding, the Canadian government has decided to proceed with a project to provide search and rescue repeaters for the U.S. Air Force’s next-generation GPS satellites.

The repeaters provided by Canada’s Medium Earth Orbit Search and Rescue (MEOSAR) satellite project will significantly cut down on the time it takes to locate a distress signal, Canadian military officers say.

Canada’s Department of National Defence will begin negotiations with the U.S. Air Force to install the 24 search and rescue repeaters on the U.S. Air Force’s GPS 3 satellites, the Canadian government announced July 24.

Joint CF and USCG Exercise

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3 Years on Mars! Curiosity Rover Reaches Milestone

NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has now been trundling across the Red Planet for three very productive and eventful years.

Curiosity landed on the night of Aug. 5, 2012, pulling off a dramatic and unprecedented touchdown with the aid of a rocket-powered "sky crane" that lowered the 1-ton rover gently to the Martian surface via cables.

The six-wheeled robot then set out to determine if its immediate environs — a 96-mile-wide (154 kilometers) crater named Gale — could ever have supported microbial life. That work and more are chronicled in a new NASA video on Curiosity's discoveries on the Red Planet.

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Startup Makes Progress in Beamed Propulsion for Reusable Launchers

SAN JOSE, Calif. — A small Colorado company has successfully tested a new type of propulsion technology that it believes could eventually enable low-cost, single-stage-to-orbit launch vehicles.

Broomfield, Colorado-based Escape Dynamics announced July 17 it carried out a small-scale test in the laboratory of its beamed microwave thruster. In that test, the company beamed microwave energy to a thruster, heating helium propellant and generating a small amount of thrust.

“Using microwave-powered propulsion is really what we think is the next giant leap in space access,” said company president Laetitia Garriott de Cayeux during a presentation at the NewSpace 2015 conference here July 17.

Artist's concept of a single-state-to-orbit spacecraft, powered with beamed microwaves. Credit: Escape Dynamics

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Why You Won’t Find DigitalGlobe’s Best Imagery on Google Maps

PARIS — Satellite geospatial services provider DigitalGlobe will not sell its highest-resolution imagery to map providers that distribute it free of charge, preferring to pay a revenue penalty in exchange for maintaining the value of data that, for now, only it can offer, company officials said.

In a July 30 conference call with investors, DigitalGlobe said its 30-centimeter-resolution imagery, available commercially since earlier this year following a U.S. government policy decision, has too much value to be thrown into the commodity mix along with other images used by Google Maps, Microsoft Bing and others.

DigitalGlobe won't sell its highest-resolution imagery, such as the picture above of the U.S. Capitol building taken by the company's WorldView-3 satellite, to mapping services that give it away for free. Credit: DigitalGlobe and Satellite Imaging Corp.

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Dizzying Up And Down Rocket Flight Captured By On-Board Cam | Video

The MAPHEUS-5 sounding rocket was launched from the Esrange Space Center in Northern Sweden on June 30th, 2015, reaching a height of 161 miles (259 kilometers). It carried 5 experiment modules that were successfully recovered after touchdown.

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